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Cap-ital Idea

Volunteers knit hats for newborns, raise awareness for heart health

A doctor in San Angelo ended up helping more than one heart when he inserted a stent into Nancy Johnson’s artery in May 2015.

A grateful Johnson, who’s been a member of Southwest Texas Electric Cooperative for 57 years, turned to knitting to help get the word out on heart health.

Johnson already had been contributing knitted red hats to the American Heart Association’s little hats, big hearts program, which raises awareness for what the organization says is the No. 1 killer of Americans—heart disease—and congenital heart defects, by providing babies born in February with keepsake red hats. Johnson and other donors from all 50 states sent more than 30,000 hats to Chicago hospitals in 2014.

But she saw an opportunity closer to home: “I just said, ‘Why not here? Why not in Texas?’ ” So she founded the first Texas-based Little Hats, Big Hearts group, which has grown to include 19 craftspeople. By October, they had amassed more than 400 caps crafted by knitters as young as 9 and as old as 79.

“It doesn’t matter who made it; it’s the cause behind it,” says Johnson of Sonora, whose husband, Jerry, recently retired from Southwest Texas EC’s board after 43 years.

Their initial goal was to make enough hats to adorn the heads of all babies born in nearby San Angelo in February, American Heart Month, but they’ve since eclipsed that expected mark. Now Johnson has eyes on sparking a statewide movement for Texas-born babies.

“If we can get this to spread, then eventually we can cover the whole state,” says Johnson, a proud mother and grandmother herself, who guesses she’s made at least 50 caps. “It makes your heart feel good.”

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